Isn’t a logo a brand? More and more we are hearing the word “brand” thrown around by solopreneurs, designers, and marketing “experts”. Over the past few years it has become quite the buzzword in the marketing landscape. Quite often, I hear the word “brand” used interchangeably with the word “logo” by a marketer trying to sell me a some ridiculous service I don’t want. I know right away that they have absolutely no idea what he, or she, is talking about. A logo is not a brand unless it’s on a cow.
Your logo is part of your corporate identity, however this is not your brand. It’s a PART of your brand. When you think of branding you have to think about what your consumers think and feel about your business. That is your brand. Whatever THEY say it is. The “brand” is the sum of all the experiences they have with your product or service. Your brand is the way the packaging feels, the way your customer-service-reps handle your customer’s complaints, the attitude of your staff, the smell of the lobby when they walk into your business and much, much more. In essence, your brand, is a customers gut feeling about your product or service. The “brand” is not a design or something you can see. The “brand” is the experience, and branding is the skill of influencing that experience.
One of my favorite examples of this idea comes from the book Brand Identity Now (below). They make the clear visual distinction between a logo and a brand:
Calling a logo a brand would be like calling a car the highway. The car, itself, is not the highway, it’s the vehicle that takes you to the highway. In the same respect, the logo is what emotionally takes customers to the brand, not the brand itself. When a customer sees a familiar logo, instantly they remember the experience with the brand. When you see the Starbucks logo, you may remember the last time you visited the location and had a great cup of coffee in a relaxed environment. The reason this happens is because a brand designer spent a great deal of time designing an experience around that logo. Your brain associates the logo with the taste of that coffee, the style of the seats, the personalization of your cup, with your name written in black sharpie, the smell of roasted coffee grinds, the friendly faces and a relaxing atmosphere. Brands go to great lengths to protect these experiences because the brand is what people pay for, not the logo.
It should be no surprise that Starbucks went to great lengths to show their customers how they felt about the recent arrest of two men casually sitting in one of their locations. The brand is what makes the logo valuable. When customers have negative experiences with a product or service, it devalues the brand. As a result of this negative experience, and clearly racial bias, Starbucks closed over 8,000 stores to protect the integrity of their brand. Branding is all about perception. By closing stores, they aim to influence peoples perception of their brand as one against racial discrimination.
Below you will find three pictures distinguishing a few different aspects of branding. Hopefully this will make it clear to you what a brand is not.
The first image is of the logo, and supporting identity elements such as display font, body copy font, and brand colors. Brands use style guides to keep their image consistent in order to build trust with customers. Next, we see packaging that uses the defined rules from the style guide to further strengthen the brand’s identity. Finally we see advertisements, that use predefined imagery, and messaging that is bold, encouraging, and celebrating athletes. None of these things are “the brand”. The feeling you get when you experiences all of these things together is “the brand”. A very small part of it, but still the brand.
In summary, a logo is not a brand. A logo is the flag-post for a brand. Remember that a brand is not what you say it is, it’s what the customers say it is. Branding is not logo design, and marketers have no idea what they are talking about when they refer to a logo as a brand. The next time you hear one of those “experts” say something like “You need a new brand designed for your website” ask them what a brand is. See of they can succinctly define the difference. At times understanding the difference can be difficult, but now you will have a much better idea of what a brand is and is not. Thanks for reading!
SO you’ve got your big idea, and a clear vision for your brand identity. Now it’s time to figure out How to Invest In A Logo That Doesn’t Suck!